A CHRISTMAS ODYSSEY by Anne Perry [Review]

A Christmas Odyssey

Anne Perry’s Christmas tales are becoming a staple of my holiday reading. I look forward with pleasure to each year’s entry into the collection and A CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY did not disappoint. At 208 pages it is closer to a novella than a novel, but it is nonetheless full of plot, character and enough “meat” to truly sink your teeth into on a dark wintery eve.

A Christmas Tale begins when Henry Rathbone receives a visit from an old friend, James Wentworth, ten days before Christmas. Wentworth’s son, Lucien, has disappeared into the the less savory parts of London. Knowing a little more about this world than Wentworth, Rathbone goes to his friend (and Perry regular) Hester Monk for help. Luckily, Monk’s assistant is reformed brothel keeper and knows the underworld of London all too well. The three set out on a search for Lucian that takes them not to the bright fires and plum puddings of upper-class Victorian England, but to a much different world.

I think that’s what appealed to me so much. So many books, particularly Christmas books, set in victorian England, portray only that sparkling upper-class world and forget the darker byways of Charles Dickens. A Christmas Tale walks the streets that Dickens knew well, and even more, it has a deep, almost gothic (in the Victorian neo-gothic sense) feeling to it. The visits to opium dens and brothels and the deeply dark side of Victorian London might not seem to belong in a holiday tale, but in the end there is light and hope for the characters.

Perry is a Master of her craft and the song of her writing is enough to keep me glued to the page, but the depth of this small book offered so much more. I was half-expecting a light-ish read (although, nothing mindless, this is Anne Perry, after all) but what I got was something that appealed to the reader in me who enjoys Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley, Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens and the writers of the era itself who didn’t see their world through the rose colors lenses and lace doilies that we tend to see it today.

A Christmas Tale, for all its holiday setting, is a book to be enjoyed year round, don’t let the title fool you into thinking it is as just a purchase in December or only read under the tree, this little gem should go on the shelf to be regularly dusted off when you want a trip to the dark streets of Victorian London, knowing that there is a ray of light at the end to guide you safely home.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars | Publisher: Ballantine Books | Pages: 208 | Source: Purchased | Buy on Amazon

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  • Eveboehm

    This was not up the the quality of her past novels, it had me wondering if she had, indeed written it herself. There was one sentence describing a wintery scene, so was disappointing in that respect too. This is the first of her Christmas novels that I’ve read, but enjoyed many of her Inspector Pitt stories. No stars.